Boushie family says there's 'no reassurance of fairness' when RCMP investigates itself
Leading civil liberties advocate agrees RCMP process for investigating conduct complaints is flawed
The mother and sister of Colten Boushie say they are "extremely upset and disgusted" by the RCMP's dismissal of their complaints about the conduct of officers who came to inform them of Boushie's death.
The statement from Debbie Baptiste and Jade Tootoosis released Friday added, "There is no reassurance of fairness when they investigate their own."
An internal investigation by the RCMP exonerated officers who dealt with Boushie's family in the wake of his shooting death in August 2016.
Boushie, 22, was shot and killed on a rural property near Biggar, Sask. His death ignited racial tensions across the province and landowner Gerald Stanley — who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder — goes on trial in February.
Boushie's family had made a formal complaint that they were mistreated when officers came to inform them of the shooting.
RCMP allegedly asked mother if she'd been drinking
Boushie's family said when seven officers came to the Boushie family home the night he died, family members were treated as if they were under suspicion. They also allege the officers searched the home without permission, and that at one point an officer asked Boushie's mother if she had been drinking.
The RCMP has apologized to the family but the findings of their internal investigation dismissed all but one of the complaints.
"My family members re-live the trauma of that day over and over again, and now we are being told that is completely acceptable," the statement said.
"Officers made mistakes. The individual officers are nothing special, nothing gives them authority or power over people other than their own systems and structure of oppression.
"We know they made mistakes based off their lack of education and judgment. They are not trusted by Indigenous people on the prairie. How are we to trust the RCMP when they treat us like criminals when we are the victims?"
Outside investigations build public confidence
"I don't believe this should have been investigated by the RCMP in the first place, these allegations of misconduct," said Josh Paterson, the executive director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
Across Canada, complaints about RCMP conduct can only be investigated by the RCMP's Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.
Paterson says not only is that oversight body under-resourced, too often the complaints against RCMP officers don't even make it that far.
"The reality is most complaints against RCMP officers in this country are investigated by other RCMP officers," Paterson said.
He said having an outside independent agency investigate serious complaints from the outset would help build public confidence in police. Even if the officers were found to do nothing wrong, it would be easier for the public to believe they did nothing wrong if the case was not investigated by fellow officers.
"The key difference is it won't be the person's colleague who they were cadets with at Depot doing the investigation of them," he said.
This week Ontario announced it is making sweeping changes to its policing laws, including expanding the mandates of its police oversight bodies.
Paterson says he would like to see similar reforms nationally that include RCMP.